bs”d, kvod HaRav: I was told by one of the Gedolei Yisroel to leave my husband, as there is an abusive atmosphere for myself and kinderlach at home.
I have approximately 8 days left in the apartment I currently live in before the lease ends. The people I thought were going to help me get on my feet with a few months’ rent for my own place, currently can’t or won’t. I have blay”h many kinderlach.
My deceased biological father was not Jewish – some of his relatives may give me a little bit of money. I do not really keep in contact with them (I may send a very rare email).
The question is: can I take “tsedakah” from them? Would there be any inyun of chilul HaShem, G-d forbid?
Maybe I should just work on strengthening my emunah – HaKodesh Baruch Hu has many ways – maybe I should not even ask? What does haRav advice that I should do?
If you think that you will be able to raise money from your late father’s relatives, it is permitted to turn to them for assistance. Although it is more ideal to rely solely on the Jewish community, Hashem has many ways, and His ways are not known to us; if asking your father’s relatives is a realistic option, you should take it, and perhaps by this Hashem will send His salvation. I wish you much success.
Although the Gemara in Bava Basra (10b) writes that it is forbidden to receive money from non-Jews, the Gemara in Sanhedrin (26b) writes that the prohibition applies only to donations given publicly, but not to donations that are given privately, and for which the issues of chilul Hashem is not raised. This distinction is ruled by Rambam (Matnos Aniim 8:9) and Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 254:1-2).
However, Rambam and Shulchan Aruch also mention the rationale used by the Gemara in Bava Basra, namely, that accepting charity from non-Jews gives them “credit” that we do not wish them to have. This rationale would seemingly apply even to private donations, a problem for which several authorities suggest answers. Derishah (YD 254) writes that the Gemara only forbids accepting charity from non-Jews when the charity is given to a charity collector (gabbai tzedakah), and not when the poor person himself receives the donation. This answer is also found in Orchos Chaim (vol. 3, 34:1), and is implied by Meiri (Bava Basra 10a). Taz (254:1), however, disputes the solution, suggesting instead that the prohibition applies specifically when the non-Jew desires the special merit of contributing to Jews. A similar approach is taken by Binyan Zion (85). According to Maaseh Roke’ach, the prohibition applies only to a large amount that can be shared among many poor people, and according to Shenos Chaim (181d) the prohibition applies only to kings and officers, an opinion also voiced by Rav Elyashiv (Moriah, Adar 5747).
According to all of the authorities mentioned above, the prohibition would not apply in the case of our question, which is why it is permitted to request donations from non-Jewish “relatives.” However, some make a distinction between the laws of charity and the laws of validity for edus (testimony), meaning that the Gemara in Bava Basra (which prohibits receiving charity from non-Jews) relates to the laws of charity, whereas the Gemara in Sanhedrin (which permits receiving charity privately) relates only to remaining a valid witness (see Mekabtziel 23). Thus, it remains preferable to avoid requesting alms from non-Jews, though it is permitted to do so in private. In addition, when Jewish donations are not sufficient, and money is required for basic living, it is permitted to request charity even in public.